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How to Pass the NCMA Exam

Advance Your Medical Assisting Career by Earning the National Certified Medical Assistant Certification

Medical team working at a conference table

Medical Assistants (MAs) can improve their new job prospects and opportunities for promotion by earning certification. Plus, only specified state licensed professionals can perform important functions like entering radiology, medication, and lab orders into the computerized provider order entry system.

Many MAs choose to obtain the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), including those who want to work in a physician’s office. As a result, our article about the five best Medical Assistant certifications for your career lists the NCMA exam. The report provides an overview of certification options and some of the advantages of each.

The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers the NCMA exam. This article serves as an NCMA exam study guide that includes more detailed information on the format and content of the exam, as well as valuable NCMA exam tips and study suggestions on how to pass the NCMA exam the first time.

What Is the NCMA Exam?

The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam certifies that Medical Assistants have well-rounded clinical and administrative skills. The NCMA certification may be the best option for those who wish to work in medical practices such as physicians’ offices or outpatient clinics.

The NCCT, an independent credentialing organization, has tested healthcare professionals and instructors throughout the United States since 1989. NCCT provides multiple qualifying paths for certification in several roles, including the NCMA exam. The NCMA exam certification is recognized nationally. Note: Washington requires candidates to meet specific requirements before applying to NCCT for testing.

If you would like to know more about getting on the path to a new career as a Medical Assistant, you can read more about How to Become a Medical Assistant.

Is the NCMA Exam Hard?

In 2021, the NCMA exam pass rate was 56.8%. That’s about six in 10 Medical Assistants who passed the NCMA exam (the number of tests administered during 2021 was 6,577). Therefore, you could conclude that the exam is challenging based on the success rate. But for those who diligently prepare and study for the exam, the odds of passing remain very high.

How Many Questions Are On the NCMA Exam?

The NCMA certification exam consists of 150 scored questions and 15 unscored pretest items. The types of questions include standard, 4-option multiple choice questions (these makeup about 90-95% of the exam).

The other 5-10% of the exam consists of hotspot items where you place your mouse over the correct spot in a graphic, drag-and-drop items in the proper order in columns, and multi-select items where you must select all correct responses.

What Score Do You Need to Pass the NCMA Exam?

The NCCT uses a scale of 0-100, with all pass points scaled to a score of 70. Therefore, you must score a minimum of 70 or higher to pass the exam.

Who Is Eligible to Take the NCMA Exam?

There are three routes of eligibility to take the NCMA exam:

1A. Current Student: The first route is for current students in a Medical Assistant program from an NCCT (authorized) school. After graduation, you must submit a copy of your Medical Assistant diploma, certificate of completion, or official (signed) transcript with graduation date to obtain full accreditation. Additionally, all required documents must be submitted within two years after successful program completion for your certification to be released.

1B. Graduate: You can also qualify as a graduate from a Medical Assistant program from an NCCT (authorized) school within the past five years. You must submit a copy of your Medical Assistant diploma, certificate of completion, or transcript with graduation date. This includes US Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship programs.

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2. Experience: You can go this route if you have two years of verifiable full-time experience as a Medical Assistant practitioner within the past five years. You must have two years of full-time employment or equivalent (4,160 hours) as a Medical Assistant under the direct supervision of a certified/licensed physician or primary care provider. Finally, you must submit a copy of your high school diploma (or equivalent) and the Medical Assistant Certification Qualification by Experience form completed by your employer. Note: Working as an instructor is not equivalent to working as a practitioner.

3. Military: You can be eligible if you’ve completed Medical Assistant training or its equivalent during US Military service within the past five years. You must provide a copy of a SMART transcript or DD214 indicating you have completed a formal medical services training program of the United States Armed Forces relating to the discipline for which you are testing. The DD214 or SMART transcript must be current within the past five years.

Alternatively, you may also qualify if you are a member or spouse of the United States Armed Forces and have two years of verifiable full-time experience as a Medical Assistant practitioner within the past five years. Second, you must be a United States high school student, graduate, or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED). Third, you must have two years of full-time employment or equivalent (4,160 hours) as a Medical Assistant under the direct supervision of a certified/licensed physician or primary care provider within the last five years. Finally, you must submit a copy of your high school diploma (or equivalent) and the Medical Assistant Certification Qualification by Experience form completed by your employer. Note: Working as an instructor is not equivalent to working as a practitioner.

How Do You Register for the NCMA Exam?

To register for the NCMA exam, you must create an NCCT account, then sign in to your account and follow the registration instructions. For testing site information, you can also contact NCCT by calling 800-875-4404.

How Much Does It Cost to Take the NCMA Exam?

The NCMA exam cost is $119, which is paid during registration.

What Is on the NCMA Exam?

What does the NCMA exam consist of? The NCMA Detailed Test Plan outlines the topics on the test. It’s based on a national job analysis study identifying the most critical job competencies that Medical Assistants should possess. As a result, the exam tests applicants in each of the following areas:

Pharmacology

Clinical Medical Procedures

  • Infection, exposure control, and safety
  • Patient care

Phlebotomy

ECG and Other Diagnostic Tests

  • ECG placement techniques
  • ECG recording
  • ECG troubleshooting and maintenance
  • Other diagnostic tests

General Office Procedures

  • Communication
  • Medical office computer applications
  • Scheduling
  • Medical records

Medical Office Management

  • Medical office general management
  • Office financial management, billing, insurance

Law and Ethics

Close up of a clipboard and a laptop

Sample Practice Exam Questions

Following are a few NCMA exam sample questions like the ones you might find on the actual exam (see answers at the end of the article). The NCCT does not provide or endorse specific study guides but gives some sample questions and a practice test example. Actual test questions will vary from any sample questions.

  1. Which of the following is a federal regulation that requires health care professionals to protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients’ health information?
    • a) CMS
    • b) OSHA
    • c) HIPAA
    • d) CLIA
  1. A microorganism that rarely causes disease is called a ________.
    • a) Flora
    • b) Pathogen
    • c) Spore
    • d) Non-Pathogen
  1. Hydrocortisone is a drug used to suppress_________.
    • a) Inflammation
    • b) Appetite
    • c) Excretion of urine
    • d) Swelling
  1. Body language, body posture, space, and distance are all examples of _______.
    • a) Written communication
    • b) All answers are correct
    • c) Verbal communication
    • d) Non-Verbal communication
  1. How should a 24-hour urine specimen be stored during collection?
    • a) Refrigerator
    • b) In a freezer
    • c) At body temp
    • d) At room temp
  1. The physician has ordered 50 mg of Demerol to be given to a patient. The concentration on hand is 100mg/ml. How many cc’s of Demerol will be injected?
    • a) 0 cc
    • b) 5 cc
    • c) 25 cc
    • d) 5 cc
  1. An office appointment calendar or book must record not only the name of the patient and the start time of the appointment but also indicate the __________.
    • a) Relationship to the patient
    • b) Social Security number of the patient
    • c) Insurance provider’s contact information
    • d) Duration of the appointment
  1. On an ECG machine, the sensitivity switch controls the ________.
    • a) B or C
    • b) Start
    • c) Gain
    • d) Amplitude
  1. In the reception area of medical practice, the computer screen must never be ___________.
    • a) Viewed by medical personnel
    • b) Facing the filing cabinets
    • c) Able to be viewed by patients
    • d) Turned on
  1. A positive urine dipstick for albumin in the patient has ______ in his/her urine.
    • a) White blood cells
    • b) Proteins
    • c) Glucose
    • d) PH

Close up of stethoscope and textbooks

How Do You Study for the NCMA Exam?

Although there is no single best way to prepare for the test, the following are some tips on how to pass the NCMA exam. The best NCMA exam test strategies combine familiarizing yourself with the format of the questions with studying the categories and topics identified in the test plan. In addition, you can choose to supplement your studies with many other resources, including current medical assisting publications and textbooks.

1. Create Your NCMA Exam Study Plan

The best strategy to pass the NCMA exam is through dedicated studying. You can succeed at this by creating and following a study plan. Your plan should include the topics and materials you will study, the times of day you will study, and your goals for each study session. Create your plan, and then stick to it.

2. Review the NCMA Test Plan

The first thing you should review is the NCMA Detailed Test Plan. This document lists the competencies covered in the exam, including topic categories, topic subcategories, and a list of essential concepts you should understand. So it’s essentially a list of “what” you need to study.

3. Study Program Materials and Textbooks

NCCT does not provide or endorse specific study guides, review products, or training courses. Instead, candidates are encouraged to prepare using any educational materials they choose. Completing a program like the medical assisting program at Brookline College can provide you with valuable reference materials and study resources to help you study for and pass the NCMA exam.

4. Add an Interactive Study App to Your Plan

If you feel like you would benefit from an interactive study resource, you may want to purchase an app for your phone or tablet that helps you prepare for the NCMA exam. Apps like The Certified Medical Assistant provide hundreds of multiple-choice questions on medical terminology, anatomy, patient preparation, laboratory procedures, communications, law, ethics, and more.

5. Take the Practice Tests

NCCT does provide what may be the most valuable study help—online practice tests and a bank of questions. Taking the practice tests will be the closest thing to taking the actual exam, so you’ll want to make taking the practice tests part of your study plan.

6. Prepare for Exam Day

First, get plenty of sleep the night before the exam. If you’ve followed your study plan, you won’t need to cram the night before. Dress comfortably on exam day and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Be sure to answer all questions in the time allotted. But don’t stress. Pace yourself and trust yourself. Do your best, and your hard work and preparation will pay off.

How Many Times Can You Take the NCMA Exam?

NCMA exam requirements for those seeking to retest state that applicants must wait 30 days after their previous exam. But after failing to pass a third time, you must wait one year before your fourth attempt. The waiting periods allow candidates adequate time to prepare to pass the exam on their next attempt.

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Why Enroll in a Medical Assisting Program?

A program like the medical assisting program at Brookline College can provide you with a good foundation and plan for how to pass the NCMA exam.

Completing a program accredited by an approved regional or national accreditation agency helps you qualify for the NCMA exam (you must graduate from an NCCT-authorized school). Your program will be an excellent source for NCMA exam prep materials and can help you to prepare for and successfully pass the exam on your first try.

Brookline College’s Phoenix, Tucson, Tempe, and Albuquerque campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

 

 

ANSWERS TO NCMA PRACTICE QUIZ

1) C 2) D 3) A 4) D 5) A 6) B 7) D 8) A 9) C 10) D